The Ryan Budget Deal

This is veering off topic, but while I have the makings of another tab-clearing news link, everyone is all atwitter about the Ryan budget deal. I haven’t been able to get all that worked up about it, to be honest, because it seemed another case of the grassroots conservatives wanting to fight on every front all of the time rather than picking battles carefully. I see this quite often in the gun issue. A lot of people got worked up over UFA renewal, but it’s the wrong battle to fight at the wrong time. The bill has nearly zero impact on every day gun rights, and for a lot of reasons I think it’s fine to kick that fight ten years down the road for now.

Megan McArdle wrote an article today I think is correct in term of analyzing the Ryan deal.

But if they do nothing at all, many reason, they get all the sequestration cuts. Why trade them away?

To avoid another showdown. Though I, too, would like government to shrink, I think this is the right policy trade-off; shutdowns are making it harder and harder to talk about rational budget policy in this town. And tactically, I think this is a clear win for the Republican Party. The last thing they need right now is to take the focus off the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and revive Obama’s flagging poll numbers with an ill-timed budget battle. Their best shot at a budget they really like is, after all, to retake the Senate in 2014.

RTWT. From my reading of it, the Ryan deal is meant to avert another government shutdown, which the Democrats have been preparing to do. Another shutdown would be a disaster for the GOP, because as Megan says, it would take the focus off the flaming train wreck that the ACA is turned out to be. That’s why the Dems would love to precipitate another shutdown in order to distract the low-information voters from their own failures and focus everything back on how awful the GOP is.

Of course, the GOP won’t say that, because they would rather piss on your leg and tell you it’s raining, and that, I think, pretty much sums up the GOP’s problem, which is messaging and communication. That gets back to what Glenn Reynolds noted:

I think that’s right. I think the problem is that a lot of the grassroots don’t trust the GOP leadership to do that. The leadership might want to think about what it can do to build such trust.

No one trusts them because a) the 1994 revolution turned into a non-revolution, and b) the GOP sucks at communicating. The Ryan deal may be necessary, but the GOP leadership would rather kick the grassroots in the teeth and offer platitudes than talk to them like actual adults. Want to understand the popularity of Chris Christie? Because he communicates, and treats voters like adults. Corbett, by contrast, just hiked my gas taxes and then has the nerve to send me a fundraising letter bragging about how he eliminated the retail gas tax (failing to mention that he accomplished this through a massive hike in the wholesale gas tax). Maybe we had to hike the gas tax. Maybe that was the only way to get a transportation bill funded. But don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining. Level with me. The GOP might be playing a bad hand the best they can right now, but you’d never know it, because they have no idea how to communicate to voters. If you ask me, that’s the GOP’s number one problem.

73 thoughts on “The Ryan Budget Deal”

  1. The GOP is afraid of cuts to THEIR big government welfare program: the military. Plain and simple. Every part of the government is too big, with the exception of the military – which is perpetually funded appropriately, if not massively underfunded.

    The Dems and Republicans are just two sides of the same coin.

    1. I agree that the military is the GOP’s welfare program, but in their defense at least the military is something the government should be doing, and is a constitutional function.

    2. This may be a first, but I agree with mike on something here. I agree with this sentiment regarding excessive military spending. Also let’s not forget how much I hear from the “movement conservatives” about how much we spend on foreign aid and that isn’t even a consideration on this bill. We could pay down the deficit by cutting the massive amounts of foreign aid to the middle east (INCLUDING Israel) alone. But I digress…

      But these are our pet peeves. Let’s look at political reality. The GOP does not have the upper hand in the budget making process right now. They should, but with this Democratic senate pretty much taking every opportunity it can to make kissyface with the president, they won’t let the GOP get away with anything. The GOP is in a better position to do it if they can get the senate. But they aren’t going to get the senate without diffusing some criticism. The best way is not to make waves right now. And they still can’t get anything passed through the Obama white house without serious concessions, making them the prime target of Dems until 2016. So there has to be some long term strategy here, which I get.

      Now, my anger is going to erupt if they move on and create an immigration plan that grants amnesty. More people surveyed want to see our existing immigration laws actually enforced (just like gun laws), and in this case I believe that going against the popular sentiment and passing the senate immigration plan will kill their chances at getting to a majority in the senate or to get a Republican president elected in 2016. Funny, because this is the opposite of what many establishment Republicans believe, but it makes no sense. Right-leaning hispanics (the ones who are going to make or break elections for Republicans) don’t want amnesty, and it’s mostly been Organizing America and their front groups to try to convince the movers and shakers otherwise. But why believe them? Just like why believe them when they tell us that gun control is a winning issue for Democrats if only we just “believe”?

    3. As someone living in the military industrial complex I assure you that the sequestration cuts had a significant impact on us this last year. The volume of cuts might not seem large, but the impact of having something ripped out without fore-plan was tremendous. Understand we take the long view on everything – three years for the average decent sized program and five years is not unusual. And that’s just to get it awarded. From there we’re talking an average of five years to get to the end. Sequestration did not do a line-item cut – it was across the board. That meant everyone had to scramble. It hurt and the GOP was fine with it. The idea that the GOP are protecting DoD like the Dems protect welfare is not true.

      The Tea Party is just as fine taking their cuts equally fro defense as they are SNAP. Won’t argue the philosophy, but I will challenge the idea that the military is the GOP equivalent of a third rail.

      The Dems made that mistake when Obama proposed and got sequestration. Sequestration took an even amount from defense as it did other programs. He made a bet that the GOP would not take the hit to military spending, and he lost. Obama thought military protectionism in the GOP was a “Mutually Assured Destruction” that would prove the budget cut to be temporary. It wasn’t.

      1. But that’s just not true. The reason the GOP is so desperate to do this deal is to avoid further military cuts that would otherwise happen due to sequestration. And excuse me if I don’t shed a tear for bloated military programs having to scramble to stop wasting our childrens’ money. Hey, the country is going bankrupt. Maybe the folks that spend the most of our money should get a sense of how that feels. But hey, it’s the end of the year, time to blow the rest of the budget, right?

        1. Wasn’t asking for tears, just pointing out those who theorized that “military spending protectionism in the GOP will keep sequestration from going into effect” was a bad one.

          Keep in mind that a lot of those who are wasting your children’s money are actually working hard to make sure their future is secure. It sounds cliche, but in many cases it is true. There are staff who have been cut that were directly supporting wartime fighters. The eyes watching over soldiers were cut. Helicopter training squadrons had to cut flight hours to dangerous levels for lack of ground support and fuel. The guys loading ships in Norfolk were cut. Maybe it’s better they were cut. Those sailors could just fish for their food every day. I mean…the Navy has ships, for crying out loud!

          Understand the grand effects of unplanned cuts are typically going to be born by those who are not in place to direct the resources. The Pentagon still serves Starbucks to its workers, but training and operational support are diminished. Contractors and soldiers alike were harmed. The end result of this last year includes the fact that many of the smaller and midsized firms who employed persons based on their (good) work for Uncle Sam’s DoD took hits. Many did not survive. That leaves the large contractors – and those guys generally are not capable of performing. The fact is the small and mid-sized firms are the ones who actually do the good work, and they have shrunk. Those effects will be felt for a long, long time.

          1. In some ways, I think you’re being a little melodramatic, because there’s certainly bloat in the military that needs to be trimmed.

            Having said that, I’ve seen the numbers. We could cut out military spending completely, and between Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, we’re still heading towards bankruptcy! And those programs are the “third rail” for politics…

          2. “Keep in mind that a lot of those who are wasting your children’s money are actually working hard to make sure their future is secure.”

            Maybe not blowing trillions of dollars making enemies in the Middle East would go a lot further to make their future secure. We took out Saddam because of [fill in blank], and unleashed the mess that Saddam was able to control. Great. And we’re also playing Drone Wars in how many dozen other countries? I wonder what the ratio is for how many new terrorists are created or recruited per drone strike on a wedding party. Sadly, I think our children will find out someday.

            The way to secure our childrens’ future isn’t to leave them a bankrupt country that most of the world hates. Read that last sentence a few more times.

    4. Democrats are also pretty big on military spending, as long as it ends up their district. Military spending tends to be pretty bipartisan. For every “schools not bombs” liberal Democrat in Congress, there seems to be at least Democrat willing to go along as long as his friends get enriched. Think Murtha.

  2. I dunno, the military is taking some cuts in this. It’s another case of optics. The administration controls the chain of command messaging. Military cuts by the GOP are -always- spun as “reducing benefits for our injured warriors” and such by the Dems, the small/efficient type cuts never get credit for what they are.

    Just like local belt-tightening is always presented as attacks on firefighters and teachers, never the administrators and bureaucrats who are the intended reduction.

    1. How about foreign aid? That’s one that I think more could agree needs to get reduced, but that never happens.

      1. Foreign aid is not a very large portion of the federal budget. It’s less than 1% of the budget. But it’s something Americans pretty consistently overestimate, in terms of how much of the budget it represents.

        1. If foreign aid totals more than $20B of the budget then that could be used to pay down the deficit. One of the selling points that Boehner said about this budget was that it would pay down the deficit to the tune of $20B or so, after all.

          1. 20 billion is a pretty small sum of the total deficit. Some of that money is meant to buy peace or favors, so it might be money well spent. Wars are a lot more expensive. I’m not saying it can’t be cut, but it doesn’t earn you much deficit reduction, and cutting it completely would have serious foreign policy consequences.

            1. I only use $20B because that is the figure that Rep. Boehner gave regarding how much we would pay down the deficit from this budget.

              If foreign aid were cut uniformly (which could mean cut out completely or not) it would not have much impact on foreign relations. Like I say, for instance, cutting middle eastern aid would include Israel as well.

            2. We’re not “buying peace” – we’re mortgaging it. We borrow money from China and give it to India, Pakistan, Israel, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, etc. If peace costs that much, and will cost our kids that much, maybe it’s not worth the price. I’m pretty sure every country we mortgage peace from still pretty much hates us.

              1. While I’m inclined to think we’re mortgaging our future on Social “Security” (in all its forms), I can’t help but wonder how much “buying peace” is close to Danegeld.

                On the one hand, it helps that we’re allegedly doing it to give these countries a helping hand–particularly if the country is like Israel or France, that isn’t likely to attack us anyway–but for certain countries (the former Soviet Union/modern Russia, Pakistan, the Muslim Brotherhood), it’s either downright Danegeld, or something that started with sincere attempts to help, but has morphed into Danegeld.

                In those instances, it might very well be worth a war or two, to cut off the Danegeld. (I, for one, would like to stop giving money to our enemies, regardless…but I’d probably start with cutting out UN Dues, before looking at individual countries…)

                1. foreign aid has massive positive payoffs in terms of opening markets for US products, so that money comes back to us in trade and taxation. many times aid is just to provide basic infrastructure – water, electricity – but other times to provide the bureaucratic infrastructure to manage and open commercial ties. that’s right, it provides the foundation for capitalism – gasp!

                  Those $20B aren’t give-aways and that amount is dwarfed by the amount of security support provided to our frenemies like iraq, afghanistan, and pakistan.

                  1. I wonder if countries like China give out massive amounts of foreign aid in order to facilitate trade. Because I’ll bet they’re engaged in just as much trade with all of these countries as we are.

                    It’s absurd to suggest that unless we give everyone a handout, the free market won’t work. If it’s really needed and we stop, maybe someone like China will pick up the slack and we’ll free ride on them for a change. For your premise to work, no country could trade with any of these aid recipients unless that country was giving them massive handouts. And that’s just not the case.

                    1. Yes, China most assuredly gives out foreign aid, just as the Soviet Union did before them.

                      There’s a reason that ComBloc ordnance dominates Third World nations, even those that never could afford to buy them at the EXTREMELY reduced (under cost) rates they were internationally priced at.

  3. The big problem the GOP has is that they spend way too much time worrying about how they look to the low information voters through the MSM than worrying about their base. The ideal communications strategy would be to do the “Piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining” message to the MSM and figure out a way to communicate what you’re really doing to the grassroots.

    Granted, this is going to be much harder for the GOP than the Dems, because the MSM is willing to play along. But they can’t keep doing what they are doing. If I were in charge of GOP communications, I’d be bringing in every opinion leader in the movement and speaking with them regularly, to make sure they understand what’s going to happen before it even happens, so at least opinion leaders know what’s going on. But they don’t do that, as far as I know. They aren’t really even participating in the same conversation their base is having.

      1. If I recall correctly, she would have voted for Obama in 2008 if she had remembered to register to vote.

  4. Call my retirement a “welfare program” if you must. That doesn’t change the act that I’m part of the ONLY group in America being “asked” to give up something in this budget . The provisions to federal employees in general apply to future hires, so that’s not a valid comparison. I don’t mind paying my fair share, but let’s spread the pain a little bit.

    1. Public pensions are also welfare, FWIW. You know why the rest of us have a 401k? Because that’s what the real world can afford. The problem with the military isn’t that its members are all welfare recipients – which isn’t what I meant by my comment – it’s that the role of the military is primarily a jobs program, and wealth transfer program, and somewhere much further down the list is protecting the country. If protecting the country were higher on the list, maybe they’d figure out how to stop the multi-decade invasion from our southern border.

      1. Mike — Pension, whether public or private, are NOT “welfare”. They were part of a contracted obligation (and I’ll note, civil service pensions were phased out for new hires a LONG time ago.)

        Going ba and saying, “Well, you should have invested in retirement investment plans that WERE NOT AVAILABLE WHEN YOU WERE HIRED,” is insisting that we invent a time machine.

  5. “No one trusts them because a) the 1994 revolution turned into a non-revolution. . .”

    That was because the unRevolution was about gaining power, and not about ideology, other than as a rhetorical tool for winning elections.

    I have ranted before about our 1994 “gun rights” rally in Harrisburg, which drew between 8,000 and 10,000 participants, on a week day, thanks (IMO) to a lot of Republican Party facilitation. It looked suspiciously more like a Santorum rally than a gun rally, once we got there. But once the Republicans swept the elections that fall, the new Republican governor (Tom Ridge) insisted that some sort of gun control legislation be part of their “anti-crime” package, and PA gun owners were thanked for their support by Act 17 of 1995.

    The result is, people like me who don’t believe ideology has anything to do with real world politics, except, to repeat myself, as a tool for what Mencken referred to as “boob-bumping.”

    1. The “believers” of ’94 (as much as any politician is a “believer” in a principle) voluntarily term-limited themselves out during the Bush administration; the ones who are left are those who felt OK with making and then breaking that campaign promise. Something to remember – that Newt’s “Contract with America” decimated a generation of Republican politicians.

  6. “…the GOP sucks at communicating.”

    Yes, sometimes it’s painful to watch.

    In their defense I think it must be borne in mind that they don’t have swarms of media sycophants softballing them questions and editing everything they say in their favor as the democrats do. Just the opposite, in fact. BUT, knowing this as they must, I can’t see why they wont just work a little harder at it. Isn’t that what we do when Washingtonians put obstacles in our way?

    Reagan, “The Great Communicator,” was trained to do this. I can’t see why it would be too difficult for a handfull of reasonably intelligent republicans to hire a consultant or two and do the same.

  7. A deal was needed.
    Another shutdown of Gov. would paint the GOP as the bad guys , again.We can’t take another hit.
    The budget is one thing, but we need to maintain support on things like gun rights, the NSA spying, finding out what happened in Bhenghazi , and attempting to change or kill ACA.
    The budget doesn’t bother me as much as those other things.
    We need to gain seats in 2014 and if we can’t take the white house in 2016, take even more seats.

  8. I think Sebastian is spot-on. The GOP keeps everything too close to their vest. They need to get out there and say what Nancy Pelosi just told thier pissed-off caucus: “Embrace the Suck.”

    Pelosi has bigger balls than Boehner.

    Ryan is starting to talk about it. He is telling people that they cannot do squat with a House majority. They need the Senate. Until then, “embrace the suck”.

    The one thing I like about Christie is he will level with you. He will tell you when you don’t have the option you think you have. He will tell you when “compromise” is nothing more than a nice way of saying you cannot win.

    The Tea Party (I love the ideas, but…) needs to grow up. Not every decision is a battle that must be fought and won at all cost. This deal holds spending, which says a lot considering we are dealing with Team Obama.

    Hold our line and fight the ObamaCare battle. Let it give us the reserves we need to win this battle, too.

    1. I, for one, think the Tea Party would have a better chance at “growing up” if the Republicans actually treated them like adults, and even potential allies, rather than enemies.

      But too many Republicans view Tea Parties as a threat to their power (which is somewhat reasonable), so they fight them tooth and nail rather than work with them…

  9. The biggest hit I have noticed is to military retirees.

    Effective immediately, with no grandfathering, every military retiree under age 62 has their COLA for retirement pay/pension indexed to CPI – 1%. That means the purchasing power of the pension will gradually erode away.

    It hits the average enlisted retiree in the shorts to the amount of about $200K, which is pretty significant. Compound interest, including negative rates of return, is a bitch.

    Compare this to federal civilians, where the changes affect only new hires.

    You could argue about whether the military pension system needs to change, and I think it does, but there seems something wrong about breaking faith with those who have done their time and are counting on a certain obligation, or those who are nearing retirement. I would have much preferred a more significant change that affected new hires or those with fewer than X years of service.

    The message is pretty clear — the .gov can and will fuck with military veterans, just like they have in the past. I personally think it is only a matter of time until military retirees and possibly dependents are thrown onto the Obamacare exchanges, for example. It wouldn’t bother me as much if the American people were asked to take a cut too — maybe a similar negative indexing for SNAP EBT food stamps for a few years, or changing the SS COLA formula to chained CPI — but they aren’t.

    1. “Effective immediately, with no grandfathering, every military retiree under age 62 has their COLA for retirement pay/pension indexed to CPI – 1%. That means the purchasing power of the pension will gradually erode away.”

      Cry me a river. You know what’s worse? All the non-government and non-military people who have no pensions (because in the real world people don’t have pensions) whose 401k’s are shot, and yet STILL have to pay for those military pensions you’re upset about. “Boo hoo hoo, my pension is going to be a little smaller!” Pension, eh? Must be nice.

      “It wouldn’t bother me as much if the American people were asked to take a cut too..”
      Guess what – we are taking a cut. You know all those taxes we pay to fund the military, the VA, and all those nice pensions? Don’t you think we’d like to spend that money on our own families instead of other peoples’? So yeah, forgive me if I can’t sympathize with people complaining that the pension I’m paying for (in addition to funding my own retirement btw) shrinks a small amount.

      The nerve!

      1. Sorry. Retirement promises are a contract. Breaking a contract for you own convenience is an atrocity. I don’t think there is a word that captures it when the victims are people who paid in blood as well as money.

        1. If there is such a word, it is probably German.

          As Glenn Reynolds constantly notes: “Something that can’t go on forever, won’t. Debts that can’t be repaid, won’t be. Promises that can’t be kept, won’t be.”

          1. A lot of us here are libertarian-ish, cynical (or realistic), and students of history. So we get what Prof Reynolds says. I sure do.

            There are also a lot of idealistic men and women who signed up because they thought they were serving their country. They aren’t as cynical as we are. Basic training doesn’t really address the past broken promises made to veterans so many aren’t aware of the gov’s not so good track record on the “taking care of vets” front.

            Many stepped up (or reupped) a decade or so ago, knowing that they would certainly spend their careers deployed to foreign lands. The E-6s and E-7s (and O-5s) retiring today were the Corporals and Sergeants (and Lts and Captains) that reupped and stuck around after 9/11, whose leadership was critical to bringing as many Americans home from foreign battlefields, and whose maturity has in many cases saved significant numbers of civilians from serious barbarism. Debate the strategic wisdom (or folly) of OIF and OEF, but at the Corporal/Lt level all that matters is getting your team home and being able to sleep at night (and the latter is a distant second).

            So yeah, you go look in the face of a guy or gal who has blown out knees and back pain from lugging around 120 lbs of gear in OEF, has years of deployment time, has missed more holidays than they’ve been home for, has trouble sleeping, gave their most productive years to what was sold as a form of service, and tell them you’re supportive of breaking faith with them. Heck, even a FOBBIT has gone through some significant life experiences. Again, we can argue about whether those wars were a good idea, but it is hard to deny the human cost carried by a small sliver of the population.

            Currently we have an all volunteer force. If you want to retain a quality force you need to be level about the compensation package. Even libertarians tend to be fairly supportive of contract law, and the idea of a contract is that promises made will be honored. Personally I’m not opposed to the idea of a mercantile seagoing republic like ours going back to a draft/reserve focused type system for ground forces and retaining a professional Navy/strategic Air Force, but that’s not what we have today. Had we changed the retirement plan and also said, “You know, we can’t afford the all volunteer force. Effective immediately, we are reinstating the draft and requiring military aged young people to undergo two years of reserve or Guard service” that would be a different can of worms.

            I’m supportive of changing the military pension system. I realize the math is unsustainable, the current system is unfair to many soldiers (most punch before 20), and the current system isn’t the best way to retain or bring back the talent needed in today’s force. It would have been more cost effective and honest to simply grandfather current retirees (and maybe those within 3 or 5 years of retirement) and announce a new system for everyone else.

            1. “There are also a lot of idealistic men and women who signed up because they thought they were serving their country. They aren’t as cynical as we are.”

              I’m sure there are lots of those idealistic people you mention, but most of the people I know who signed up did it to pay for college. Maybe that’s because I met a bunch of them in college, or because I hung around with people whose parents couldn’t foot the bill – and whose grades couldn’t get them scholarships. I dunno. But my experience has been that people I’ve met who signed up in the past 20 years or so, including both friends and family, there’s not a one I can think of that didn’t sign up as a way to pay for college.

              I’m not trying to diminish anyone’s service, but I don’t think we should pretend that everyone signs up purely out of altruism and an idealistic patriotic desire to serve their country. I’m sure some do. But, as I said, in my experience the people I’ve known who signed up did it to pay for college (or some variation of that theme).

              Listen, we have 100 trillion in unfunded liabilities. Everyone is going to lose something when those bills come due. Everyone. If we have any chance of preventing it – or pushing it off onto our grandchildren instead of our children, then we’re all going to have to take some cuts now. Well, Joe Taxpayer has been taking his cuts for quite some time – to the tune of trillions of dollars – to fund the military misadventures we’ve been running of late. You know, those things we couldn’t stop funding because NEVER CUT FUNDING TO THE MILITARY. Yeah, the money to pay for that came from the rest of us – that’s money that wasn’t used for anything else, and money borrowed that we now have to pay back with interest.

              1. But this isn’t doing jack to reduce the deficit. They’re making this cut to pay for sequestration. Not the same thing.

                Furthermore, if congress actually wanted to reduce military spending, they would allow the military to close bases. But they don’t, even though it would be an efficient and effective way to cut costs. No congresscritter wants “their” base closed.

            2. Indeed it would have. Then people could make their choices based on the situation. It is the retroactive nature of the change that constitutes breach of contract. I really don’t understand libertarians (Reynolds included) that don’t think that contracts are important. Military retirement is not unsustainable. It is simply a question of priorities. Me, I would rather honor prior commitments than constantly expand the reach of government.

              1. I don’t disagree and I don’t think Reynolds is in any way disregarding the primacy of contracts. But you can’t just print money to pay them, that’s a breach of contract as well. So, like every bankruptcy, it comes down to a question of priorities of payment.

                I completely agree that in terms of the feds, they could eliminate the issue by simply cutting back some fat and bringing the existing size of government to Constitutional levels.

                But I think the pols on both sides see veterans as a comparatively small and dispersed voter pool. The number of Congress-critters with a majority veteran electorate, who would be willing to vote for the other guy they probably disagree with on every other issue to “show their anger”, is likely a vanishingly small number.

                1. Sure it is convenient to dishonor contracts to a small number of people. But it is wrong. When did we quit caring about that.

                  1. I bet the folks on food stamps and SSDI say the same thing. Look at Detroit for an example of the alternative. Hey, I don’t mind people having their pensions made slightly less outlandish. Heck, I don’t even have a pension.

                    1. Yes, but they’re all unsustainable charity taken em by force from me and my family gifted to someone else. Free food? Free disability? Generous pension in your 40s? A bunch of suckers get to pay for it to avoid going to prison? Sure, sign me up!

                    2. So you’re happy to sacrifice officer retirement pay for the sake of enlisted folks’ pay, but can’t understand the same thing when you replace “officer retirement pay” with “military retirement pay” and replace “enlisted folks’ pay” with “the entire nation”.

                      Yes, because that’s called “taking care of the troops.” You know what George Washington was doing around this time, 1776? Begging Congress for a chest of hard cold silver to pay bonuses to enlisted dudes so he could keep them around for a little op he had planned near Trenton.

                      A good officer or leader should ALWAYS be willing to take a personal hit to ensure the enlisted men and women are taken care of. That might be eating last at the end of the chow line, or accepting some sort of political loss.

                      Also, I see that nobody is mentioning all the folks who go into the military and retire in their 40s, expecting the rest of us to foot that bill too. Must be nice.

                      It technically isn’t a retirement. It is retainer pay. The enlisted dudes can be recalled to service for another 10 years. The officers can be recalled indefinitely. THe Army just did it to a GO, in fact. It was done more extensively in the Iraq War, and I’m sure it will be done again in the future. The US Gov’t is paying a stipend to keep technical experts on retainer status.

                      A typical E-7 getting out at 20 makes about $1.5K per month in retainer pay. Many get out as E-6s so it is even less.

                      Again, I get that you are a taxpayer. You want to save money. I totally get it. This change “saved” around $20 BN. I would have been 100% ok with another change that also saved $20BN, but grandfathered current enlisted retirees and those close to retirement.

                      Sure, sign me up!

                      I’m sure there’s a recruiting station not far from where you live. We are still fighting in Afghanistan. Standards have tightened up though lately, so you may find it more competitive than a few years ago.

                    3. “I’m sure there’s a recruiting station not far from where you live.”

                      You know, sometimes I think about that and wish I had joined the military. But it all comes back to the fact that:

                      a) it’s primarily a jobs program anymore
                      b) IMHO, the US hasn’t been involved in a war worth fighting in my lifetime

                      Sure, there’s Afghanistan – that would have made sense when Bin Laden was still there. You know, instead of Iraq. But now? What’s the point? What country has ever come out of Afghanistan victorious? And even if they did, so what? There’s not even anything worth winning. All we did was made more people hate us, and liberate the local opium trade. Yay us. That kids are getting killed and maimed for that? That’s the real tragedy. Well, that and the additional debt we’re passing on to kids who aren’t even born yet.

                      Your Washington analogy is flawed too. Washington was fighting a righteous war. We’re fighting wars because.. “Well, we have to keep the troops busy, and keep the defense funds flowing.”

                      Heck, maybe the could just take 1000 troops from each of Germany, Italy, S. Korea, and Japan. OR ask those countries to foot some of the bill. I get that we need to keep a global military presence, but it’s just too damned bloated. If anyone talks about bringing as much as one barber home from a German base, it’s the end of the world and he clearly hates America and the military. The GOP needs to stop acting like the military is a sacred cow. It’s just their pet jobs/welfare program.

                    4. Mike —

                      Meeting contractual obligations you offered as an inducement for someone to render service of a particularly risky and generally low paying nature, especially when the nature of the contract is such that, EVEN AT RISK OF DEATH, it is unilaterally unbreakable, is NOT WELFARE.

                      Keep in mind how one sided a service obligation contract IS — as an NCO, I had not only the authority but the DUTY under certain circumstances, to select which troops would likely die, and the DUTY (and legal authority) to shoot them dead (without trial and without warning, under many of those circumstances) if they refused. Hell, how many jobs have YOU had where your boss could turn a gun on you and tell you, “We don’t know if there is nerve gas still around, and I need to know if it’s safe around here — take your mask off or I’ll shoot you where you stand,”?

                      Contrawise, food stamps, Pell grants, etc., are GIFTS. And the part of teh budget that represents those gifts has been MASSIVELY expanded over the last five years (and had been massively expanded for every year before that, including during the “evil mean selfish” Bush Administration.)

                      Remember, when they screwed over ALL disabled vets, it was to save $6 billion dollars OVER TEN YEARS. That’s paltry, compared to simply tweaking the award of GIFTS by reducing them down to, say, where they were five years ago. . .

                      I’m sorry you’re envious of the contracted benefits that veterans (especially disabled vets) receive — I assure you, diasabled vets would love to let you have the amputations, TBI, PTSD, blindness, etc. I _KNOW_ those of us vets who aren’t officially disabled would LOVE to give you our ruined knees, weird psychological reactions to specific stimulai, etc.

                    5. Geodkyt, you mistake my annoyance that I’m stuck with bills that can never be repaid – with envy.

                      Contracts get broken all the time – and so long as the rest of us are getting screwed by our government, I don’t think any other group is above that. Yes, it sucks. But look around. Welcome to the real world, where your government lets you down.

                      It’s unfortunate that some people are injured and killed in war. But surely they knew that was a possibility when they signed up to help pay for college.

                      Military or not, if folks think they’re going to have a pension to bank on when they get old, they might do well to have a backup plan. Of course this depends on their current age, and how much longer we keep dishing out unsustainable federal benefits.

                2. I don’t disagree and I don’t think Reynolds is in any way disregarding the primacy of contracts. But you can’t just print money to pay them, that’s a breach of contract as well. So, like every bankruptcy, it comes down to a question of priorities of payment.

                  It definitely makes it clear that pretty much every other American has priority over vets.

                  I would have preferred to save X dollars from military pensions by simply altering the plan radically for new hires and moving to a 401K system, or at least folks who are not really close to retirement (or even retired). Or heck, whack the officer retirement pay more than the enlisted folks. The way this was done really sucks for the typical enlisted retiree.

                  1. So you’re happy to sacrifice officer retirement pay for the sake of enlisted folks’ pay, but can’t understand the same thing when you replace “officer retirement pay” with “military retirement pay” and replace “enlisted folks’ pay” with “the entire nation”.


                    Also, I see that nobody is mentioning all the folks who go into the military and retire in their 40s, expecting the rest of us to foot that bill too. Must be nice.

                    1. Exactly.

                      I’d say it’s even worse than conservatives or libertarians complaining about their welfare payments being cut.

                    2. It’s an unaffordable entitlement. And the guys footing the bill are starting to figure that out.

                    3. Like I said before, honoring prior commitments is the highest priority for me. You are entitled to your contrary opinion.

                    4. That’s the point, Mike — it is NOT an entitlement.

                      It is a contracted obligation.

                      Entitlements are things NOT EARNED, nor CONTRACTUALLY AGREED TO.

                      Want to change the veteran’s benefits for FUTURE enlistees? Different argument altogether — they haven’t been contracted yet. Maybe a 401K style investment account system would be more rational (although that doesn’t take into account disability pay AT ALL. . . and “workman’s comp” for people who are permanently injured in the course of their civilian jobs is standard, and not considered “welfare”. . . funny, it’s only when it’s a disabled veteran that it’s suddenly “welfare”). But we can certainly have teh argument that benefits for soldiers not yet enlisted should be reexamined.

                      However, I’ll be happy to have that argument with you on the basis of effectiveness. There’s a reason we developed and implemented the military pay and benefits scale we did, and it wasn’t to find a way to shove extra tax dollars into the pockets of veterans for the purpose of just shoving tax dollars into their pockets. It was because it was ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY to recruit and retain a high quality volunteer force.

                      You know where we could have saved over 2/3rds of the cost of keeping our contracted word? Simply ending the practice of sending income tax refunds to illegal aliens. It is illegal for them to work, therefore, paying them ANY refund is an entitlement, pure and simple. But THAT payoff was specifically considered more important than paying our disabled veterans what we promised them when they signed up.

  10. Here’s the problem, Mike, the military portion of the sequestration cut(s) was 50% of the total cut. I don’t care what kind of math you want to use, the military ain’t using 50% of the budget. More like 4-6% IIRC.

      1. No — it was across the board PER DEPARTMENT. But the DoD was targeted for approximately 50% of the TOTAL cuts. That was the “poison pill” the liberals demanded, thinking it would force Republicans to fully fund every single liberal wet dream program and vote-buying welfare program in order to avoid the military cuts.

  11. What I’m seeing here basically amounts to:

    “We can’t do anything of value here with just the house; we need the senate too. Therefore, we must compromise on our principles in order to try to get the senate.”

    That ignores several things:

    *If they’re willing to compromise on core principles then why should I vote for them?

    *If, with a hostile press, they can’t get anything done with just the house, what makes you think that winning the senate (at least without a super-majority, which isn’t realistic anyway) would change anything? Applying critical thinking skills here leads to the inevitable conclusion that they’d just make the same argument between 2014 and 2016.

    *Extrapolating from this, they’re basically saying:

    “We can’t do anything to advance our core principles/values until 2017 unless we constantly compromise on our core principles/values.”

    With an attitude like that, why the hell would anyone vote for them?

    1. Also: From what little I’ve heard/seen/read on this proposed “deal” it’s yet another case of the democrats getting everything they want now, with the promise that we’ll get what we want in another few years.

      We’ve been playing that game for at least 30 years now: invariably it means that the democrats get what they want, and then get to make us out to be the mean bastards when we try (and therefore fail) to hold them to their end of the deal.

      Who was it that defined insanity as doing the same thing repeatedly with the expectation of a different result?

    2. Dems did not get the extension of unemployment they wanted, and that was huge. Also – as a parallel to this discussion – check out the latest on the Farm Bill. It’s basically dead. Keep in mind the Farm Bill is what pays for food stamps, and the proposed expansion of the same by the Dems. Over the last two months, Dems went from a food-stamp expansion to accepting that they were going to take a cut that removes an estimted 5 million people from the program. This was no accident – it was the House GOP getting what they could even while in the minority overall. Two huge welfare programs being kept in check. I’d say that is a good show for a party that holds nothing more than a single half of one branch.

      The idea that the House can overcome both the Senate and the Executive on their own is bupkus. They cannot do it. The best they can do right now is hold spending where they can and bide the time to get enough seats in both chambers to make lasting change, while eking out moderate effects where they can sway the outcome (farm bill, for instance).

      Just because you “do the most you can with what you got” does not mean you give up on the long plan. This budget compromise is a reflection of GOP limitations. Sometimes you just gotta take what you can take now and keep working for more later. Agreeing to take a portion of what you want does not mean you compromise your values on the rest of it.

      Progressives have strangled this nation since Woodrow Wilson largely because they understand their principles and work to enact them, one piece at a time. They do it in small bites, and rarely take an “all or nothing” stand when fighting for what they want. They see their goal as a list of items, and they are quite happy to propose 10 things and get only one enacted. They don’t whine about the nine they “lost”…they cheer the item they won and work to cross another off next time. And guess what? Their willingness to “take one; lose nine” has effectively let them score wins over generations that we cannot undo without great effort.

      The GOP base are some of the worst losers out there. We take some wins – holding spending, stopping the expansion of welfare, etc. – and turn them into “losses” because we didn’t get everything on our list all at one time. It’s like a card counter at the blackjack table getting upset because he’s going to have to play all night to break above even. I mean, winning Powerball would be easier. That’s what the GOP base wants – a lottery win – because it’s just too much work to stick it out and win one hand at a time. They want it all, and they want it right now.

      I don’t give much credit to the GOP leadership. The GOP leadership does not help, at all. They would rather talk to Pelosi than to those people who help communicate with the GOP base (Tea Party groups, etc.). How much of this could have been avoided if they just reached out and worked with the Tea Party groups up front and said, “look, we cannot get everything we want but maybe we can hold the line long enough for reinforcements to show up.”

      But they like their imperial positions and seem to think talking to us like adults is below them. I say new leadership is in order.

      1. Your GOP comment is echoed in the behavior of many in the gun rights crowd.

        I’m not sure what magic fairy they think is going to come along and reward them for their “all or nothing”, “-everything- right now”, “incremental gains = compromise and ideological heresy” irrational steadfastness.

        Meanwhile, every success at holding the line and every incremental gain is dismissed as appeasement, betrayal, and a loss.

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